Sunday, March 29, 2009

Running free

My iPod said the weather outside would be cold and crummy so I overdressed for it a little. I went for a run at the park with my husband early and was pleasantly surprised to see sun instead of the drizzle and wind that was predicted. I heard a dog whimpering as it was getting out of the car, seeming to say, "Hurry up, hurry up! I want to go!" as it waited for the person with it to get out of the car and arrange clothing and paraphenalia. At that instant, I knew how the dog felt. It was beautiful outside and I was ready to go.

I let my husband mind the watch and I just focused on the run. I read a lot of other blogs by runners who talk about running such-and-such pace on their training runs and being disappointed because instead of going x minutes a mile, it was more like y. On training runs, I pay no attention to my pace. I don't wear a heart rate monitor either. I just run at what feels like a good effort for that day. If I feel crummy, I run slower. If I feel good, I run faster. When I'm getting closer to a race, I do some pace work, but in the off season it's just about how many minutes I'm on my feet. Today was a half-hour run and I was a little sore from weight training, so I kept my effort a little easier and just had a nice, enjoyable trot through the park.

I spent most of the rest of today riding in a car -- my one sister drove us to Columbus to visit my other sister and her baby. It was a nice day all around. The visiting felt a little short after all the time in the car to get there and get home. I'm ready for them to build a high-speed rail line from Toledo to Columbus -- I'd buy a season pass!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Weekend workout report: On a roll

I came across a quote yesterday that I loved:
"We can deny everything except that we have the possibility of being better."
That sums up my feelings about my progress lately. I'm doing well and I'm happy with where I am, but I also know that I want to continue to improve. I was talking with a friend this morning at breakfast and realized that it was like talking with myself -- she was kind of getting down on herself and I was trying to gently suggest thinking of fitness as a process, just focusing on what small steps she could take each day instead of feeling bad not being at her goal. Good advice, huh?

Saturday, March 28, 2009
One-hour Pilates Reformer class. Muscles a little sore and tired from yesterday.
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Friday, March 27, 2009
One-hour Cardio/TRX class, private session with Diana to design program, another 40 minutes or so. Tired!
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Thursday, March 26, 2009
Ran 40 minutes in the park with some hills. Warmup/cooldown/stretch, 15 min. total. Evening walk in the park, 45 minutes. All felt good.
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Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Fitness eval with Diana. Managed to get to Spinning class and felt great after 45 minutes of sweating.
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Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Felt better so I got out for a half- hour walk in the park.
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Monday, March 23, 2009
Felt miserable when I woke up--allergies? A cold? Took a rest day.
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Sunday, March 22, 2009
Ran half an hour in the park with Jesse.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Building some momentum

Despite my little rant yesterday, I've actually been feeling very motivated since my disappointing fitness assessment. Right afterward, I went to a Spinning class, which helped settle in my mind that I was not tragically unfit -- I enjoyed the class and it helped me mellow out about the whole thing. Then I got myself wound up again thinking about it and posted my thoughts yesterday about what a waste of time it all was, but then when I went out for my run, decided it was time to start adding in one longer run a week and did 10 minutes more than I usually do. I feel like this whole thing was a big wake-up call. I could either sit around and be unhappy about it, or I could focus on the results I want and get to work.

Today I did a cardio/sculpt session and then went right into another private session, where the trainer walked me through a functional weight training program that I can do on my own at the YMCA. She had me do one set of each of the exercises, so my muscles were like wet noodles when I was all done. We talked about how I could fit a program together.

I was tired so I went to a nearby coffee shop to give myself time to unwind and sketch some things out. I wanted a plan that was challenging and also balanced. This is what I have for now:

Monday: Swim (40 minutes) and weight training program
Tuesday: AM Yoga and Short run (30 minutes)
Wednesday: Spinning class (45 minutes)
Thursday: AM Yoga and Longer run (starting at 40 minutes and progressing from there)
Friday: Cardio/Sculpt (30 minutes cardio/30 minutes strength)
Saturday: Pilates Reformer class
Sunday: Short run (30 minutes)

That gives me Saturday off from cardio (Reformer is strength and flexibility). I imagine that this plan will change once the real summer weather hits -- I'll probably want to do more outside and be in the gym less by then -- but will give me a good foundation for my summer training.

When I was feeling down yesterday, I watched an episode of "How to Look Good Naked" on my iPod. I bought a season pass on iTunes but have only watched a couple of them. The one I watched yesterday just happened to feature a woman with a body type very similar to mine -- she was very unhappy about her heavy thighs. I find the show really inspiring, not only for the fashion tips, but also for the overall attitude that we should be good to ourselves and not let our perceived flaws stand in the way of the life we want to lead. I thought the woman on the show looked good even before her makeover and looked much better after she got out of the boring baggy clothes she was wearing.

After browsing the site, I think I'm going to plan to visit this store for a real bra fitting the next time I'm in a major city. I think it will be better than my lackluster fitting at Macy's.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Some thoughts on the fitness assessment

Yesterday I had a fitness assessment and was a little disappointed by the results. The more I think about the whole process, the more I wonder how much value it really has. Trainers love to do fitness assessments, and I know that at a lot of gyms, they do this when you start to help you measure your progress. I also think that gyms tend to use this as a selling point to make sure you realize how important it is for you to be at the gym. In my case, I asked for this assessment because a friend of mine had raved about how helpful it was for her. In my case, though, I wish I hadn't wasted the $60 session (though I had a package discount so it didn't cost quite that much) on something I could have done myself with a body fat scale, a heart rate monitor, and some simple home tests. I might have spent more initially on the monitor and the scale, but I'd have them for future use. I could also track my progress on my own and save the embarassment of having someone else pinching my fat.

I think a more appropriate time for a body fat assessment and some of these other tests would be when you were at a plateau near your goal and feeling stuck. A body fat test might show that you are actually where you need to be, or give you the extra motivation to keep pushing. The fitness tests might make you see how much you've already accomplished.

I think that now that we have so many fitness gadgets and tests, it's easy to get seduced by the numbers and think they're more important than they are. In the 70s, when the running boom started, a digital watch was an expensive luxury. Now we can have calorie counters, GPS devices, heart rate monitors, etc., etc. I have run with and without a heart rate monitor and find that I have a pretty good feel for when I need to speed up and slow down without the help of the digital nanny.

I'm meeting with the trainer on Friday to get a weight-training workout that I can do on my own. I think despite all of my griping this experience has helped push me out of my rut a little and given me a little more motivation to push myself. I'm going to get out and run in a few minutes with just my trusty watch (well, and my clothes, of course). The weather's nice so I'll even leave the iPod at home today.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My Fitness Eval and "The Biggest Loser"

First, the fitness evaluation. This is definitely not for the faint of heart. My body fat percentage puts me in the "Obese" category, which I find hard to believe, actually. I think I'm solidly in "Overweight." The pinch test she used would seem to have a lot of room for error.

Still, whether I believe the test was totally accurate or not, it is true that I have weight to lose, at least the 20 I want to lose and maybe even another 5 or 10 (if I believe the test). I also need to work on building my lean mass. I think I was secretly hoping to be told that I was fitter than I really thought I was, which didn't happen. I have been doing fairly well on logging my food for the last few weeks, so now it's time to work on cutting calories gradually and continue to focus on eating more healthy foods.

I did score in the "Excellent" range on core strength, thanks to all those Pilates classes. My sit-and-reach score was only "Average" and the modified push-up test was "Fair." Obviously there is a lot of room for improvement here.

I also had a high heart rate after the 3 minute step-up test and one minute for recovery. I think, though, that my heart rate tends to be higher than average and don't put a lot of credence in the 226 minus my age as my actual max heart rate. The heart rates that she was telling me I should have in my cardio sessions would have me barely breaking a sweat. I am supposed to check my resting heart rate and get back to her with that number to see if my range should be adjusted.

I am not sure what knowing these scores really changes. I already wanted to lose at least 20 pounds. I already wanted to work on boosting my strength. The whole reason I signed up for personal training was to get some help designing a strength training routine and help me integrate my various activities into more of a plan. I guess that it gives me a baseline so that three months from now, I could do this all again and see how much I improved. I'm not sure that's that interesting to me, though.

I'm not angry but I know this post sounds like I am. Actually, I was proud of myself because as I left the studio, I realized I still had time to make it to my Spinning class on the other side of town. Sweating for 45 minutes solid really helped and I was doing something constructive toward my goals instead of stewing in my disappointment.

I think I definitely want to get a heart rate monitor or replace the battery in the dead one I have. I am toying with the idea of getting a body fat scale but I think that could just become another number to drive me nuts. Probably better to focus on behaviors at this point and not on measurement.

On "The Biggest Loser," two things really struck me.

The first was that Tara was contemplating quitting just because other people were jealous of her success and were gunning for her. It struck a chord in me -- I think that is probably something a lot of people can relate to. Tara wants everyone to like her so bad that she considered giving up something she wanted to please other people.

Secondly, I was disappointed in Ron, actually angry at him, for suggesting that Aubrey should "Go home and help her dad." Aubrey's dad is in the 500 pound range and whenever anyone confronts him, he says, "I am making changes" and then looks away. Ron should know better, as someone who has been overweight his whole life, than to think that someone is going to be able to "fix" a person in that situation. All Aubrey (and Mandy) can do is be a good example and provide support if he asks for it. If they talk to him too much about it, it will just make him more skittish and reluctant to try for fear of failing and disappointing them.

I need to remember both of these examples as I try not to let my fear of failure OR success get in the way of working toward my goals. Luckily I seem to have shaken whatever was bothering me so much on Monday and feel ready to take on a challenge.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Starting to feel better

I really wonder if I'm just dealing with spring allergies, as everyone is all stuffed up around me and blaming the trees. I don't want to have allergies, because I am not going to shut myself up inside when it's beautiful out. As I told Anne earlier today on twitter, "It seemed like only rich kids had allergies when I was growing up." I have never actually gotten any guidance from a doctor on allergies because if I do have them, they're pretty mild and I am rarely at the doctor's anyway. I mentioned it once to my doctor and he said, "Take Sudafed." It works for colds too, so either way, I'm good. I took some last night and slept like a baby.

I took it easy all of yesterday and today, even though I did go in to work, my work is sedentary at a computer most of the time. I went out for a half-hour walk with my husband in the park and I felt like the fresh air helped, so maybe it's a cold and not allergies. Who knows.

I have my fitness evaluation tomorrow. I almost cancelled it but it was so hard to schedule in the first place that I decided I'd better just tough it out. I hope I made the right decision. It's first thing in the morning and then I have a meeting in the afternoon and an open house for our program in the evening. Hopefully I'll be feeling (and looking) much better by then. I am most worried about the body fat percentage thing -- but I trust the instructor and think she'll keep it positive. Mostly, I'm doing this to help me step up my training and feel like I have some direction.

Monday, March 23, 2009

No swimming (or Starbucks) for me today

I woke up with the cold my husband had a few days ago. Luckily, he seemed to get over it pretty fast. I'm going to stay home today so I don't pass this on to anyone else. I have work I can do here.

I briefly toyed with the idea of not eating and following the "Starve a cold" idea. I read an article this weekend that suggested that fasts can help you heal from various ailments. And then I got hungry. I decided to try to have healthy food to help me get better faster.

I saw this new Multi Grain ceral at the store last week when I was shopping and decided to try it. I desperately want to like oatmeal but there is a flavor in it that I don't like. I thought maybe if it was mixed with other grains, I might like oatmeal better, and I was right. This is great. It cooks in about a minute so I imagine it's an instant cereal, but it tastes really good and has none of that glueyness that turns me off with most oatmeal. The first time I had it, I cooked it in vanilla soymilk and added raisins to it while it was cooking. Then I added some cinnamon and a few chopped pecans. I liked it a lot. Today I had it cooked in water with a pinch of salt. When it was done cooking, I added some frozen blueberries, cinnamon, and about half a teaspoon of brown sugar and stirred it in the pan for a bit to make sure the blueberries were heated through. I topped it with some chopped pecans in the bowl. (I thought about photographing this, but I have no idea where the camera is, sorry!) Both ways were good, though I think I like the taste of the cereal better when it's cooked in the soymilk.

I plan to drink peppermint tea all day, do some work on the computer, and generally take it easy. I'm not sure what I am going to have for lunch, but I have some beans soaking for a spicy bean chili for tonight.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Weekly workout report: Happy Spring!

This week I bumped up my total exercise time to more than 6 hours! The big difference is that the weather is nicer and I'm getting out for more walks. This week was not a high-intensity week.

I have my fitness evaluation on Wednesday. I'm both excited and nervous. In my experience, my body tends to have a higher percentage of fat, even when I'm fit, than other people. I got measured at two different times when I would consider myself very fit, and I was at 29% body fat. Right now I'm sure I'm higher. What I'm mostly looking for is a plan to get me ready for more intense workouts and training this summer. I'll report back after the eval.

It has been a while since I've been in the pool, so I think I need to go tomorrow. I don't think I need to bribe myself with Starbucks this time.

Sunday, March 22, 2009
Ran half an hour in the park.
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Saturday, March 21, 2009
Pilates Reformer class, 45 minutes. 50 minute walk in the park in the evening.
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Friday, March 20, 2009
Shopping, but otherwise no workout.
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Thursday, March 19, 2009
60 minute "Yoga for Athletes" video. 55 minute walk in the evening.
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Ran 30 minutes with Jeannie -- faster than usual for me. Calves were sore so I went for a 20 minute walk in the evening to stretch them out.
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Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Took it easy today: walked to work and back, about 1 hour. Then took another hour-long walk in the park later. Not bad for a rest day.
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Monday, March 16, 2009
45 minute Spinning class at the JCC. Took an hour-long walk around the neighborhood in the evening.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Shopping trip

Yesterday I visited a friend in a nearby, larger city. I had a 20% off shopping pass for Macy's, an idea of what I wanted to get, and plenty of free time. I was armed and dangerous. I had a limit in mind of what I was willing to spend, so I wasn't going completely crazy.

I did the bra fitting, and I really don't understand what all the fuss is about. Maybe Macy's doesn't do it right, but basically, some twenty-something measured me, looked at her instructions about what the measurements meant, and suggested a size. I knew I was probably between two sizes and the size she gave me was one of the ones I thought. So I could have probably accomplished the same thing by going into a dressing room with a handful of items and trying them all on. I was disappointed to see that I'm in a larger cup size than I thought. This means that it's harder to find anything that doesn't look like it was meant for someone's Aunt Helga. When I was at my goal weight for those ten minutes or so, I had a lot more options for undergarments because I fit into a more reasonable size.

I did find a couple of basics at good prices, and then splurged on a couple of pretty things. I also found a dress with a flattering empire waist in a summery print. It was less than $50 on sale, down from $150. That's the thing about Macy's, when you catch a sale it's usually a good one.

Finally, I bought a gift set at the Origins counter that had the Youthtopia cream, a cleanser, and some other items in it. I didn't notice any change from the 40 carrots serum, but I do feel like the Youthtopia is making a difference in my skin.

It was all fun and all of these items were confidence boosters. Still, I think that should take care of me for a while.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Back to reality

After my last post, I got some great comments, so I thought I'd post an update on how I feel about these items after some reflection:

  • The new sink: I was upset that my faucet was not running properly. I didn't want to replace the faucet and then have to replace the sink later. I also didn't want to call the plumber if it was something I could fix myself. I did some web searching and found this article, which suggested that the aerator might be clogged on the faucet and explained how to clean it. Sink is fixed! Someday when I feel wealthy, maybe I'll replace the sink, but for now I'm happy that it works.
  • Repairs to the shower: I am going to call the plumber to set up an appointment for this. We have a hot water leak and I know that fixing this will save us money in the long run since we won't be wasting hot water and the natural gas to heat it just so it can dribble down teh drain.
  • A new car stereo: Totally not necessary. The number of times I drive longer than half an hour is so small that I can get by with NPR and the radio. I also have a CD player that sort of works. I had one of those FM transmitters for my iPod but it broke and left a part inside my cigarette lighter, so I don't think I want to get another one.
  • A small digital camera: We have a digital camera. I just wanted one all to myself that was tiny. Not an essential expense. I am going to make an effort to take some pictures for my blog with the camera we have, especially when I am doing a recipe post.
  • A spring running jacket that is lightweight and breathable: I'm going to shop around for this because it's something I will get a lot of use out of.
  • Some cute spring tops: If I see something that I really love, I am open to the option of putting it on my credit card. But I'm not going out of my way to look for this anytime soon.
  • Some new workout clothes: I'm going to look at Target and Kohl's, since I have seen some people wearing cute things, asked them where they got them, and they said they were from discount stores. I really don't need to spend big bucks on the gorgeous stuff in the Title 9 catalog just to sweat on it. Someday, when I have my credit cards paid off completely, I'm going to save some money for a little Title 9 spree.
  • New bras: I am going to take a day and make a pilgrimage to Nordstrom's. I hear that's the place to go.
  • Some kind of miraculous firming moisturizer that will help stave off the dreaded family curse -- the Turkey Neck, which seems to be starting already: Since I know this is probably a lost cause, I got a product at the drugstore that looked promising and didn't have a bunch of toxic ingredients in it.
  • Black loafers or some other kind of casual, comfortable black dress shoes: Summer is coming up and realistically, I'm going to want to wear sandals most of the time anyway. I'll save my money for a pedicure.
  • One item I forgot that I really, really want is a new bike that fits me better. Obviously that is not happening this year. I'm going to take my bike in for a tune-up and see if they can help me adjust it to be more comfortable.

What I'm having to accept is that I can't simultaneously pay off my credit cards and have everything I want. I'm trying to be more realistic, both about the things that I really want and need and the pace at which I can pay off my cards while making so much less money. Doc Mannette's comment reminds me that I could have all the stuff I wanted and still be unhappy if my life situation was different. I have enough material stuff to feel safe and secure and also have great friends and a wonderful husband. That is definitely something to be grateful for.

This summer, things are going to be tight unless I can find a new income stream or two. On the plus side, working out outdoors with equipment I already own is totally, 100% free. In the summer, we'll also have access to farmer's markets and possibly a CSA. So healthy veggies will be cheap and plentiful, which will help me cut my grocery budget. Both the workouts and the dietary changes just might help me finally get rid of those last 20 pounds.

Let's just call it "The Broke Diet." If it works, maybe I'll market it and make a million bucks.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"I Want it Now"

This isn't the post that was percolating yesterday. That's still trying to scratch its way out of my brain. This is just something that's on my mind lately.

I have been trying to work on voluntary simplicity, the idea that you can be happier with less stuff. I've read books on tossing clutter, books on being grateful, books on simplicity, books on our materialistic culture, books about the environmental impact of all this consumption...

Part of me believes that I don't need a lot of stuff to be happy.

But part of me is screaming, "But I want it!"

Really, as much as I want to be one of those people who doesn't need a lot of stuff to be happy, I believe there is stuff that would make me happier. Not fancy stuff, like an Audi or a hot tub or a giant "Cribs" style house. Just stuff that I think I want or need.

Here is a list of the things I've been wishing for lately:
  • A new sink for my bathroom, installed by someone who knows what they are doing, rather than me and my husband trying to follow a pamphlet from Home Depot.
  • Repairs to my shower in that same bathroom, so that it doesn't continually freeze all next winter.
  • A new stereo for my car with an input jack for my iPod touch (the Touch is a good example of a thing I bought lately that has brought me a lot of happiness).
  • A small digital camera that I could carry with me so I could put more pictures on my blog. It doesn't have to have 88 megapixels, it just has to take decent photos.
  • A spring running jacket that is lightweight and breathable.
  • Some cute spring tops.
  • Some new workout clothes.
  • New bras (I have been inspired by people's stories of how getting a fitting made such a difference)
  • Some kind of miraculous firming moisturizer that will help stave off the dreaded family curse -- the Turkey Neck, which seems to be starting already.
  • Black loafers or some other kind of casual, comfortable black dress shoes.
It doesn't look like as long of a list as I thought it would be, typed all out like that. I am trying to be very good about spending because my income will drop sharply this summer and is still uncertain (though things look promising) for fall. I think that's why my inner Veruca is yelling so loudly -- because she knows she's not getting any of this stuff for a while. I am trying to be grateful for all the things I do have, but especially in scary times, it's easy to think that this stuff is the only thing that's standing in the way of my ultimate, unending happiness.

Oh, yeah, that and 20 pounds.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Guacamole mix? And a recipe alternative

Some convenience foods puzzle me. I really wonder about the packages of guacamole mix in the grocery store, next to the avocados. A spice site lists the ingredients as:


If you're already in the produce aisle at the grocery store buying an avocado, couldn't you just pick up some real vegetables instead of a paper package of dehydrated ones? I don't get it. The real stuff doesn't take much longer to make than it would take to mash an avocado and sprinkle in a package of stuff. To be fair, I have sampled this stuff in the grocery store and it tastes OK. So I suppose if you were in a guacamole emergency, and you happened to have a packet of this and the avocado, you'd be able to make a passable dip.

My guac is really simple. I cut or mash up one avocado and mix in half a tomato and one onion, both finely diced. I squeeze some lemon/and or lime juice (from lemons and limes) over the whole thing to add flavor, and also so it doesn't turn brown. Then I add salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste. I don't like my guac spicy but you could add peppers or chili flake. I also don't usually add garlic -- not that I don't love it -- because I think it overpowers the avocado flavor. I don't have xanthan gum in my kitchen and my guac seems terrific without it.

I had some today on a homemade quesadilla, but I love it in my wraps or with just about anything salty (chips, crackers). Obviously portion control is important, but this stuff is such a treat that it's worth the calories, I think.

I'm percolating a non-recipe post but it's one I need to think about for a while. I want to get it right.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Recipe: My go-to lunch wrap

I only have time for a quick post, so I thought I'd share my favorite homemade lunch, which is quick, easy, and can be as healthy as you want it to be. This isn't really a recipe as much as an idea.

In our area, it's easy to get big, soft pitas from the Lebanese market. They're about the size of a dinner plate but very thin. The ones I've seen in most grocery stores are thicker and tear easily. To make this, you need the good kind of pita, because it's a wrap in this recipe, not a pocket.

The one I had today had half a tomato, about 1/3 of a cup of shredded mozzerella, a handful of baby spinach, half a teaspoon of grated Romano cheese, a tablespoon of hummus, two or three chopped basil leaves, and salt and pepper. You put your filling in the middle of the wrap, fold the top and the bottom down, and then roll it up like a burrito.

Then you grill it on a hot griddle or frying pan, turning once, until it's lightly browned and the cheese has melted. It takes about 1-3 minutes on each side. I generally put a plate on top of mine when I'm cooking it on the first side and weigh it down with a big can of tomato sauce so that the wrap gets pressed (I also think the plate on top helps make the cheese melt).

That's the whole recipe. You could use any combination of veggies, meat, toppings. The only thing I'd suggest keeping is the cheese, because without it the wrap wouldn't stick together. It still could be nice and crispy, though.

You can also swap out the pita for a tortilla or lavash.

I had mine for dinner tonight with a side of raw veggies dipped in some more hummus. And then I had a little piece of baklava and a cup of tea for dessert.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Weekly workout report

I like the idea of checking in with my workouts on Saturdays. I have been pretty consistent this week, getting almost four hours in. I did take one day completely off this week. It was a busy day and I hadn't taken a real day off in a while. I managed to journal every day, but I also am able to see that my calories are more in a maintenance mode than a losing one.

I'm still trying to get my fitness evaluation scheduled. I'm hoping it will be next week or early in the week after. I'm anxious to get some good advice on how to balance out my program.

Mostly this week I have felt more relaxed and happy and have been keeping busy doing things I like to do. I am starting to feel good about the way I look even though I haven't seen big changes on the scale yet -- I feel more toned and strong. I think it's more the exercise itself, rather than any exercise-related weight/fat loss, that has been making me feel this way.

The exercise:

Saturday, March 14, 2009
Pilates Reformer I class with Diana. One hour, totally kicked my butt.
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Friday, March 13, 2009
Hour-long cardio/sculpt class: 30 minutes Spinning, 30 minutes TRX, and 5 minutes of stretching.
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Thursday, March 12, 2009
30 minute run at the quarry. Was glad to be done -- some knee pain but not too bad.
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Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Tired and happy after 45 minute Spinning class!
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Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Rest day.
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Monday, March 9, 2009
20 minute run at the quarry.
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Sunday, March 8, 2009
20 minute run felt good after a long day of riding in the car. Would have gone longer but ran out of daylight.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Biggest Loser: Some Spoiler Zone

Carol tried to guess what got me most riled up about this week's episode of "The Biggest Loser." To be able to tell you, I will have to violate my "No Spoiler Zone" general practice -- the things that have me steamed are integral to the plot of this week's episode. So you have been forewarned.

This week there was a new twist. Instead of weighing in as a team, each player on the Blue Team faced off against a player on the Black Team. The faceoffs were set up by the winner of a "pop challenge" right after the cliffhanger weigh-in.

I thought the way the faceoffs was set up was pretty fair. There wasn't a single matchup that I thought was obviously one-sided. The Blue Team members were motivated by the challenge, but the Black Team had gotten lazy and cocky and was sure they would have no trouble winning. There was some distracting drama and jerkiness by Filipe and Bob (Sione went along with it), but that wasn't the part that had me steamed.

Then there was a challenge, and as Carol said, the prize was 24 hours of gluttony -- sorry, I mean luxury. First spoiler: The Black Team won the challenge, despite some really heartfelt efforts by Cathy, Aubrey, and Mandi. Kristen couldn't take part in the challenge, and even though Ron's part of the challenge seemed custom-designed to give him a chance to show some effort, he put his team way behind. Ron has held the Blue Team back in every challenge, and there has been a lot of crying about how the Blue Team always loses.

Here is the part that got me angry. Ron is a huge liability for his team. He isn't healthy enough to do most of the challenges, he can't work out like the other players, and often he doesn't even seem to care enough to even make a show of trying in individual challenges. He also doesn't lose much each week because he can't work out like the other players. Last time the Blue Team had an elimination, they sent home Dane, who was a strong, athletic player. This time, despite all of the crying about the Blue Team always losing, Kristen and Carol let Ron tell them that this time, they should send home another strong player. They didn't even consider sending home Ron, who seems to have set himself up as some kind of Godfather who gets to decide who stays and who goes.

If the Blue Team wants to keep Ron on, fine, but who do they have left to compete in challenges? Kristen and Ron, who are both held back from competition by their respective injuries, Carol, who is one of the older players, and one player who actually has a chance. That player will, of course, be the next one who gets sent home when the Blue Team loses its next weigh-in.

I don't know why everyone listens to Ron. I used to like him, but more and more, he seems selfish and manipulative. He hasn't really taken advantage of his opportunity to make real changes in himself. He sees this whole process as about weight loss and gameplay, when it really should be an opportunity to deal with the deeper issues that have led to his problems with weight. This is a person who already has lost and regained weight for years. He even had a weight loss surgery and managed to defeat it, leaving his body terribly distorted and sick. Does he really think that any weight he loses on TBL will stay gone if he doesn't learn a new way of life? And if he's not interested in doing that, than all of his crying about "I need to be here!" is just a waste of breath.

I think that to make the players more motivated to vote off the weakest links, the weigh-ins should be more like last week's, where if everyone on the team loses their target weight, no one has to leave, but if they don't, someone from that team has to get sent home.

So Carol, what do you think? Are you disappointed?

Book review: Feed Me

Let's be honest: I'm no amateur when it comes to reading food/weight loss stories. I have a long history of reading "I Did It!" stories in fashion magazines, makeover literature, and memoirs about epic struggles with food. The first thing I look for are the stats: Height, weight, clothing size. It's best if the author has provided all three, for maximum comparison information. I'm always looking to see if the "hopelessly overweight" author weighs more or less than me and if we're close to the same height and weight. If the stats are similar, great. In the worst ones, their "before" is smaller than my "after."

I'm well aware that this is all very disordered thinking, and before you start typing talk-her-down-from-the-ledge notes in the comments, remember that body image is a shifting thing. Most of the time I feel OK, sometimes I feel great, sometimes I feel sad. And I know that the authors of these stories are probably the same way.

Still, Feed Me: Writers Dish About Food, Eating, Weight, and Body Image to be pretty solid confirmation that if I had better stay in the Midwest, because moving to either of the coasts would shift me from just "Overweight" to "Morbidly Obese." That confirmation came from a woman who says she fits into a size two or four and writes a grateful memoir about how her husband can appreciate her, and she can appreciate herself despite her "ample derriere, rounder belly..." I just wanted to fling the book out the window. And that was just the first story.

There are more sensible stories in this volume. My favorite was Wendy McClure's "Day One," about her introduction to the mystique of "the diet thing" as a young child when she decided one day to stay home "sick" from school and figure out what her mother's weight-loss paraphenalia was all about. The stories vary widely, from a former stewardess's memoir of surprise weigh-ins and edicts about the height of her heels and the colors of lipstick she could wear to "Attack of the XL Girl," about the impossibility of shopping for clothes in chic boutiques if you wear a double-digit size. The authors take various stances on size, weight, fat, food. In all of them, though, these things seem central to the writer's idea of herself. Kate Harding, with "You're Not Fat," seems no less obsessed with the size of her body than Megali Amadel was during her days as a model. Most distressing to me was reading Ophira Edut, author of Body Outlaws, describe how carefully she thought out her appearance when speaking in front of a group of college women about body acceptance. I'm not sure I see someone as an authentic outlaw when she seems so obessively self-conscious about her presentation of her "nonthreatening hair/edgy black boots, soft eye makeup/risqué berry lips, underwired boobs/Beyoncé hips unleashed..." I forget, was her book first titled Adios Barbie or I Am Body Activist Barbie? It's clear that the body image thing can become a schtick just like anything else, a brand.

I think that despite its best intentions, this book just gives a snapshot in cross-section of the insanity surrounding food and body image. It provide much new insight into how to escape it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Two-minute movie review: He's Just Not that Into You

I saw this last night with a friend and it was a fun movie. It was a good message, too. If a guy treats you like crap, it's probably because he doesn't care about you that much. Move on.

I liked, too, that even though there were definitely some jerks in the movie, not everyone who was "just not that into" someone was a jerk. Sometimes there just isn't any there there. It also was pretty dead-on when it was suggested that some of this agonizing over boys who don't call was about a need for drama and excitement and not a real feeling that this guy was so special.

My friend sort of baffled me when she said, "I don't see what all the fuss over Scarlett Johansson is about." I spent almost the entire movie thinking how gorgeous her character, Anna, was, so that sort of threw me. When I saw some other pictures of her without the tumbling-down blond locks, I could maybe see her point, a little. But really, no. I never have understood how ordinary women can make these kinds of comments with a straight face. Seriously, I'm not in denial. Everyone in the movie, except maybe some of the characters in there for comic affect, is better-looking than both of us, or they wouldn't have Hollywood contracts.

I know where it's coming from: During the movie I caught myself checking out the women in it and comparing myself to them. That's something I need to work on, but not by tearing the women in the movie down.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Ordering salad

I went to visit my sister and her family today with my parents. It's funny, my brother-in-law made a comment about how I always order salad in restaurants. It's funny because I never do that, normally. I know that most of the time I'll be disappointed with salad, even though I like veggies, because they're not very satisfying all by themselves, and now with all the low-carbers, they don't even give you a roll or breadstick with them anymore. It's funny that someone could have such a false impression, but he doesn't see me that often.

I ordered salad today, and do a lot of the time when I eat with them, because it's three hours in the car each way to see them, my dad always orders an appetizer and then offers some of his food to everyone at the table. Plus we generally eat a snack in the car on the way there and my sister will put out cookies or something after lunch.

So the salad might have seemed like me trying to be virtuous, but I just saw it as damage control for the bagel and cream cheese on the way there, the onion ring, chips with cheese dip, and half a piece of fish at the restaurant, and seven or eight Girl Scout cookies afterward.

I really was tempted by the macaroni and cheese, though...

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Another good week

Out of curiosity, I added up my "What Did YOU Do Today" entries and figured out that I had almost 5 hours of exercise this week. I felt really good all week, except for feeling totally wiped out on Wednesday, but I realized that might have had something to do with celebrating with my sister on Tuesday night that she bought out her business partner.

I successfully logged my food three days this week and am working on making it a more regular habit. I tend to not want to log on the days when I know my calories are high or when I'm busy, even though it doesn't take that much time. I still love the Lose It! app and am hoping they'll allow it to sync with a computer program or website soon. I'd like to be able to do reports from it, which would be especially useful if I'm working with a personal trainer. I am still waiting to get my first appointment set up but I'm looking forward to it.

I'm down a little on the scale -- 172 -- and I also seem to see a difference in my body. I did try the measurement thing, Carol, but I find those numbers discouraging, actually, so I'm going to wait until I see more scale movement before I dare to try again. I'm trying to shift my focus away from all these numbers because I think it's easy to get tangled up in them. The real goal should be to get fit, and if I keep the workouts up that should happen.

My workout week:

Saturday, March 7, 2009
1 hour Pilates Reformer class. Legs are sore from this class and the one yesterday. Did a 40 minute stroll in the park to stretch them out -- got finished just as the rain started.
. . . . .

Friday, March 6, 2009
60 minute Cardio/Sculpt class with Diana: 30 minutes of BOSU step, 30 minutes of strength training and stretching
. . . . .

Thursday, March 5, 2009
Ran 30 minutes through a very windy field. Didn't blow away.
. . . . .

Wednesday, March 4, 2009
45 minute Spin class.
. . . . .

Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Ran 30 minutes in the cold -- 19 degrees! Sunny and clear skies made up for it a little. Felt great.
. . . . .

Monday, March 2, 2009
Pilates Mat I class, 45 minutes.
. . . . .

Sunday, March 1, 2009
20 minute run along the quarry. Very cold!
. . . . .

Friday, March 06, 2009

Dieting and budgeting

I thought this video was hilarious the first time I saw it. In fact, I still find it pretty funny:

Then I thought about what my life would have been like had I never used loans or credit cards to buy things I couldn't afford to pay for with cash. I still wouldn't have a house, for one thing. I remember the day that I first got a full-time job (I was 28) and one of the first things I did was get rid of a horrible, unreliable 15-year-old hand-me-down car with sporadic electrical problems. Though I spent four years paying $400 a month for the privilege of driving a new car, I still love the car and plan to keep driving it as long as I can. Some weeks, the prohibition "don't buy stuff you cannot afford" might have included groceries. I also got student loans for the final year of my Ph.D. because I decided that I might never finish if I kept trying to work full-time and finish my dissertation.

I still want to get out of debt, at least the "bad debt." Despite all the mess with the mortgage market, I still feel like my house was a good purchase, even if I might owe more than it's worth on paper at this moment in time. I know that I made some unwise purchases with credit cards, and my husband made a lot too. We try to be frugal most of the time now, though we do splurge from time to time. It's going to take a while to fully pay off the debt and I have to live the best I can in the meantime.

I guess it's like dieting -- because everything is, right? Losing weight is simple: "Burn more calories than you eat." I remember when the new, completely unintuitive food pyramid was released by the USDA, it contained a certain amount of discretionary calories (basically, splurge calories). A particularly snotty "expert" was asked how many discretionary calories people who were overweight got. "None! They've already eaten them all!" Ha ha ha ha. (I'm sorry, I can't find a link, you'll have to trust me). Funny, right?

Only if you think budgeting/watching your calories is a punishment that people deserve for being "bad," rather than a sensible way for ordinary people to live. If so, maybe you should consider that everyone makes mistakes.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Biggest Loser: Cliffhanger

I was so angry that they ended the show on a cliffhanger this week. I'm hoping for the best.

There was drama again this week, but this time it wasn't manufactured. Jillian was getting tired of Laura "phoning it in" and forced Laura to face the truth: That she would be everyone's first pick to send home at the next elimination. Laura has lost about half what everyone else on her team has lost, so the point wasn't to pick on her, it was an effort to force her to take action. Watching the show, I was struck by how round Laura's face still is in comparison to all the other players, who are starting to developed defined jawlines. Jillian wanted her to see that she has the strength and the ability to compete if she would only start putting her heart into it.

I was annoyed by the cooking challenge -- the teams were given half an hour to invent four healthy recipes for typical fast-food fare. With everyone fighting for the same ovens, how were they expected to bake a pizza and broil a burger at the same time? Just preheating the oven for a good pizza can take more than half an hour, so the players were set up for failure. They could have probably done something reasonable if they had an hour to do things, or if they had bigger kitchens with multiple ovens. I felt like it sent a message that healthy cooking is hard, when it's not, really.

I loved that the Blue Team got to work out with Sugar Ray Leonard, especially because Aubrey was a boxer! That just blows me away.

Speaking of Aubrey, I felt really sad for her watching the food pantry challenge. She was so desperate to win those free groceries. I liked the way things turned out, though. Maybe she could be a good spokesperson and fundraiser for food pantries -- she was a single mom and fed her oldest two kids with the help of these organizations, and it sounds like she still has money struggles. She could help people understand how hard it is for families in need.

This was a good episode -- I felt like people were starting to see themselves less as contestants on a game show and more as a group of people with common goals. I wish they all were more like this.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Making a committment to me

MizFit's recent post on exercise gurus reminded me of something I wanted to share. Since I can't work out with Jillian Michaels (it would probably kill me anyway), I've decided to take advantage of a local guru I really respect.

I have been working on ramping up my exercise program, but last week I had a setback. I took an easy day and then the next day, I found I had somehow strained an inner thigh muscle. I'm still not sure how that happened. Then my old shoulder problems flared up again. I haven't been doing strength training, other than some Pilates classes, and had been telling myself that I was going to fit that in once I had the cardio routine going. I think I need to figure it out, because these weird traveling injuries are what got me sidetracked the last time around.

I decided to skip my planned swim yesterday because I didn't want to aggravate the shoulders. I did a Pilates mat class at a nearby yoga and Pilates studio I really like. Instead of buying a membership, you pay by the class or service. If I had more money, I would live in that place. I can already tell that the Pilates class helped -- my shoulders feel much better today.

While I was there I talked to the owner about a special they're running, which is a discounted package of three personal training sessions and five classes. I think that getting some expert advice could help -- I have a Y membership, and I try to create workout plans for myself, but I think I need someone to help me figure out how to fit everything together and make sure my plan is balanced. The first personal training session would be a fitness evaluation. I'm just waiting to hear from the owner when she can fit me into her schedule. If they can develop a plan for me, maybe I can put my various memberships to better use and use my time more effectively.

With my current employment situation, I have the luxury of a lot of flexibility in my schedule for the next few months. I think I need to take advantage of that time to get really focused on my goals.

I'm looking forward (and a little nervous about) the evaluation. I'll be sure to let you all know how it goes.

P.S. (Sorry for the double post, RSS readers) I almost forgot. I got contacted through the Jillian Michaels site by someone looking for a fitness buddy. I suggested that she start a blog, because I have found a lot of support from mine. I hope you'll go say hi to Sharon and give her some encouragement!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Food for fuel

Earlier this week, a co-worker was going on (and on, and on) about how he sees food as fuel and doesn't really care that much about eating. For a second, I thought, "wow, wouldn't that be nice," but then I thought how sad it really would be.

Food as fuel, if you're taking it literally, means it doesn't matter what you eat as long as it sustains your energy and is relatively nutritious. Enjoying fixing and eating a nice meal would go out the window. The satisfaction I feel when I find a really terrific restaurant where the cook put some thought and care into food preparation -- gone.

I love food and want to enjoy it. Though I've spent a lot of time dieting, one good thing it did for me was to break me out of my food ruts. I found a lot of great new recipes in my healthy food cookbooks, and I finally learned to love vegetables. It's been a revelation to me. But I found these new things because of my love of food, not despite it.
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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07